Lee Ann Johnstone, the founder of Affiliate Insider, has spent the last two decades in affiliate marketing and fondly refers to it as her “first love.” She’s worked in multiple sectors of the industry from retail to finance to insurance and most recently iGaming, from every possible angle. “If you can bet on it or wager on it, I’ve affiliate marketed it,” she said.
In order to run a popular and successful affiliate marketing agency such as Affiliate Insider, Johnstone is constantly studying future digital trends, including BSV blockchain technology, which is exactly why she was invited to speak at CoinGeek Zurich this past June.
“Pretty much everything that I do is all about affiliate marketing and doing it better and making it brighter and easier and more accessible for businesses that want to use that channel to increase sales,” Johnstone shared.
“You’ve got to know what’s happening with the trends in order to move with the times. And as an agency, we obviously want to be ahead of those trends and that’s beneficial for all of our clients,” she said.
Affiliate marketing infrastructure sits on old rails
Throughout our conversation during this 9th episode of Hashing it Out and on our panel at CoinGeek Zurich, Johnstone referred to affiliate marketing as “sitting on old rails” built 20 years ago. She said we’re approaching a time when these old rails cannot handle the current digital marketing landscape and a massive upgrade is needed.
“I think we’re on the cusp of an evolution, an exciting evolution of how we think about digital and also how we do digital and how those infrastructures are going to be upgraded as we move forward,” she said.
“There’s going to come a time when we can’t scale those [old rails] for functionality and for the things that we want to be able to do. And so looking at different infrastructures and different architectures to manage all of this information and data is the sphere that we’re in right now, I think,” she added.
Affiliate tracking and its pain points
To minimize risk, Johnstone said digital marketers must diversify and should not be dependent on any one channel such as Facebook or ads in YouTube.
“You don’t want to have all your eggs in one basket with Facebook who can cut you off in a nanosecond because your ad doesn’t tie up to what their rules and regulations are and especially in the gaming industry where regulation and compliance are so strict, it’s sometimes even difficult to get ads on Facebook,” Johnstone explained.
While diversifying channels to reduce risk may be crucial for our digital marketing strategies, keeping track of all the data is extremely complicated with disjointed tracking systems in place.
“That whole infrastructure is messy. You’ve got all of these different backends and platforms that have to plug into your affiliate program. Tracking gets lost, stats can fall over, pixels can misfire…it’s becoming a minefield to just reach your customer,” Johnstone confirmed.
“Looking at ways to streamline all of that infrastructure is, I think, what the blockchain community is looking at right now. It’s a time to actually move from these old rails where everything is disconnected and working in silos to a platform and a solution that can actually make everything smart,” Johnstone suggested.
Microtransactions are the major innovation
The ability to do instant and numerous microtransactions for a fraction of a penny is one of the biggest innovations of BSV, a functionality that separates it from every single other blockchain and payment method in existence. This characteristic opens up a number of doors for digital marketers, for example, incentivizing for actions as simple as sharing a piece of content, as the TonicPow platform facilitates.
“There’s no difficult paperwork, there’s no big IO that we need to sign, there’s no validation process, is just for one person to another. The action’s done. It can be that simple,” Johnstone pointed out.
She also used the example of being able to test digital marketing campaigns quickly and at a cheaper rate than a CPA (cost per acquisition) model. You could test a certain pocket of traffic by offering a small fee for players referred instead of the more traditional CPA which is more like $150 per depositing player and upwards.
“You don’t know because you’re testing something for the first time and now you can do it as an immediate transaction. There’s no waiting time. It just makes the whole thing a lot more simple,” Johnstone said.
Making refer-a-friend sexy again
The microtransaction capabilities of the BSV blockchain also stands out in the “refer-a-friend” model, where customers can get rewarded immediately for bringing their friends onboard and maybe even continue to earn residual revenue after sign up, as the Haste Arcade facilitates.
“I think we all moved away from refer-a-friend. And actually, word of mouth referrals or personal referrals are the best kind of business that you can do…you can make refer-a-friend sexy again,” Johnstone said.
“If people buy into what it is that you do and the whole millennial generation, they refer based on their own personal experiences. So depending on what your business is and who you’re targeting, there’s just so many ways that you can use this new technology that’s coming to market,” she added.
Attribution of sales for iGaming
Attribution of sales is another area set to benefit from the micropayment and smart contract capabilities of BSV blockchain technology, a point Frank Vertolli of Net Conversion brought up during the CoinGeek Zurich Performance and Affiliate marketing panel with Johnstone.
“Especially in gaming, we don’t really use attribution of sales. We always work on last click. That’s predominantly the standard…you could actually still earn residual revenue even if you didn’t make that last click sale,” Johnstone pointed out.
“So you can earn a little percentage for popping the brand in front of my eyes two days before I actually convert, whatever the case may be,” she explained.
“And looking at those revenue models and looking at how you can incentivize your partners to do more not only in the conversion journey, but in the awareness journey, can reduce your costs in other channels, too,” she added.
Data management automation & simplification
Pulling stats and managing multiple channels of data has notoriously been a pain point for both affiliates and affiliate managers. In order to manage the enormous manual workload, affiliate programs must build hefty account management teams, manpower and budget that could be redirected to relationship management if there was a more efficient system in place.
“Get your people focusing on building relationships that are doing that well and supporting the process instead of actually doing the administration behind in the process,” Johnstone advised.
Data stored on the blockchain is also 100% trustworthy as its immutable and verifiable by anyone, a feature that would benefit any affiliate program in any industry.
“It’s going to breed trust faster. I mean, anything that builds trust faster is going to help you grow your program, because ultimately, this industry is still built around trust,” Johnstone confirmed.
Storing data on one blockchain, accessible by all—a “universal source of truth” vs. data silos—would be an enormous step forward for the affiliate and digital marketing industry. The data breakpoints that affiliate programs face today would be a pain point of the past.
“I have to collect the data on my side as the client I then have to feed that data to an FTP server, then the FTP server has to pick it up and feed it into their affiliate platform,” Johnstone explained.
“The bane of most of affiliate managers’ lives has been tracking breaks, how do we fix it, but where did it break in this whole long journey? Whereas all of that wouldn’t be a problem if we had to move to the new rails where everything is interconnected and it cannot be overwritten and there’s no breakpoints,” she added.
While it’s obvious what the benefits are of upgrading the affiliate industry rails to BSV blockchain technology, the when and the how are not obvious at all. We’re in the early adopters stage now and finally seeing the first signs of life thanks to forward thinkers such as Luke Rohenaz of TonicPow and Joe DePinto of Haste, but there is still plenty of room for innovation in blockchain-based “new rails” for the affiliate marketing space.
“There’s a lot of money involved in moving to a new protocol…there’s so many things, so many big players that need to buy into all of this and actually start making those changes and then that trickledown effect will happen,” Johnstone predicted.
“As far as I’m concerned, it has to happen because the current infrastructure is not optimized, and we know it’s broken. We all know what the problems are, but we just haven’t found, or we haven’t bought into what the next solution is going to be. But I think [blockchain] is a likely viable option…I’m just interested to see how quickly we will all move,” Johnstone concluded.
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